Giant liquid water lake found under Martian ice

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Evidence of past bodies of water and periodic flowing water have been discovered, but this is the first time a present body of water has been found on Mars.

Mars will make its closest approach to Earth in 15 years onJuly 31, which means the red planet will be shinier and bigger and easier to observe, said US space agency NASA.

With surface temperatures as low as minus 68C, it would not exist as a liquid under normal conditions.

"This is just one small study area", said Roberto Orosei, principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment.

The potential body of water
The potential body of water

Liquid water is an essential requirement of life as we know it.

"The liquid water is not a lake that you would want to swim in, locked away 1.5km beneath the surface of the Martian South Pole, the water would be a brine mixed with perchlorate salts".

"On Earth, it's nearly a given that if a ground-penetrating radar spots stronger reflections from the sub-surface than from the surface of the polar ice, then you are seeing liquid water". It sent radar pulses through the surface and polar ice caps and measured how the radio waves reflected back to Mars Express.

The researchers report their finding in this week's Science magazine.

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Previous discoveries have only been around temporary trickles of water and so to have found a massive reservoir of liquid hidden underground has been hailed a stunningly unbelievable result.

"Discovery of a large water supply on Mars confirms we're heading in the right direction".

Billions of years ago, Mars is thought to have had oceans and rivers, much like Earth. In comparison, salty ocean water freezes at 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Marsis was not able to measure the depth of lake, but the scientists estimate that it must be at least one metre thick.

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"Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth's", added Watson, who was not involved in the research. For now, researchers will continue to investigate this lake and search for water elsewhere on Mars.

"That water could be sourced from asteroids, the moon, or Mars".

Professor Dempster said Australia had taken a leadership position on the matter, with University of New South Wales researchers examining business cases, mining methods, earth analogues, asteroid selection, asteroid navigation and other resources such as platinum.

"There are single-celled organisms that survive in such an environment with a metabolism that makes use of the salt", said the professor.

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